I know that from speaking with constituents at my telephone surgeries and by email that Coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to worry and affect us all. I have compiled an updated list of communication, collating information on what action the Government is taking as we move in to the second phase of our response to coronavirus.
Mail-out May 20th 2020
Thank you for following the Government guidelines over the past few weeks and months. Since my last bulletin, I have been communicating with individuals and organisations across the constituency to ensure they are aware of the relevant guidance and able to access any and all support available. I understand completely how hard this time has been for the vulnerable, for families, for workers, and for businesses.
Anxieties surrounding the health of our loved ones and our neighbours have been heightened by our inability to see one another as much as usual. The lockdown has allowed for the country to adapt our way of life; to reduce the risk of transmission to a level with which the NHS can cope. We are now past the peak. The reinfection 'R' rate has fallen considerably and, as the Government continues to be guided by scientific experts, the guidance has been updated to allow us to gradually begin our return to a normality. We have the benefit of learning from other countries which were ahead of the UK in seeing the spread of the pandemic and the Government is continuously reviewing its policies in the light of lessons from others.
We have all faced and continue to face unprecedented challenges. The lockdown guidance was simple and clear. As we progress beyond the peak and the Government lifts restrictions there are complicated issues to resolve, and many of you will have questions and concerns. I have compiled this communication for our community to highlight the relevant available information and to clarify what action is being taken, on the basis of the reports I have received over the past few weeks.
Restrictions on Movement
Many of you will have seen that the guidance for England was updated by the Government last week. I am fully supportive of the measures, and after detailed scrutiny in parliament, MPs are satisfied that they are being implemented at the right time.
Many local residents have asked: what can we do from Wednesday 13 May that I couldn’t do before?
We can now:
- spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing
- meet one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines
- exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines
- use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart
- go to a garden centre
As with before, we cannot:
- visit friends and family in their homes
- exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool
- use an outdoor gym or playground
- visit a private or ticketed attraction
- gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in the guidance (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations)
If you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should continue to stay at home - this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.
We should continue to stay at home as much as possible. The reasons we may leave home include:
- for work, where we cannot work from home
- going to shops that are permitted to be open - to get things like food and medicine
- to exercise or spend time outdoors
- any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
When doing these activities, we should be minimising time spent away from home and ensure that we continue to keep two metres apart from anyone outside of your household. The Prime Minister has set out the Government’s intention for a further lifting of restrictions in June, and the guidance will be updated in accordance with scientific advice. Please continue to check the latest guidance on Gov.uk here.
Local Council Information
At a local level both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils are continuing to deliver support to our community. To access their information pages concerning the local response, and to find out more about assistance you can access, please visit the frequently updated pages on their websites here:
Community Support for Residents of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
I would once again like to thank volunteers across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner who stand ready to support our community. Your local Councillors are among these volunteers. From running small errands, getting shopping or picking up prescriptions, they are here to help.
I know that many of you might feel anxious about yourself or a loved one being isolated for a long period of time. I have been advised that if anyone would like to pick up the phone for a chat, our local Councillors and Conservative Association can make that happen by matching you with individuals and groups who can help.
If you would like support or know someone who may need support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01923 822 876.
In March I announced that I would be changing the format of all future surgeries to telephone-based for the foreseeable future, in line with social distancing advice, to protect ourselves and those most vulnerable in our community.
I am continuing to hold telephone surgeries regularly for constituents, and have been listening to the concerns and priorities that I know we all share at this time of uncertainty. From speaking with resident at these surgeries, as well as via my inbox, I am very aware that there are a wide range of issues affecting Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. I would like to reassure you that, as your MP, I am continuing to provide the support I can through this challenging period.
If you would like to make an appointment, please telephone: 01923 822876, or email: email@example.com
School and Nursery Closures
I know that some of you have questions about the plans to reopen schools next month. This will not happen any earlier than 1 June, and only if the five key tests set by the Government justify the changes at the time. It is important to stress that all plans are conditional on the rate of the transmission of the virus coming down, and the scientific advice saying it is safe to do so. Guidance and support is being provided to schools to ensure that both children and teachers are kept safe.If you have specific concerns you wish me to raise in advance of the further opening of schools, I would be most grateful if you would let me know your circumstances.
Government has been working closely with headteachers, unions, and health advisers to plan the return of children to school. Those plans are being designed to take account of the circumstances of each setting in order to ensure the safety of staff and pupils, in exactly the same way as has been happening to support vulnerable children and children of key workers to date, and has been happening in many other areas of work which have remained open to the public. Its important to note that schools and nurseries have remained open throughout the lockdown to support key workers' children and those who may be vulnerable, and there have been no health or safety issues arising in the UK or elsewhere. We all recognise, especially for the most vulnerable, that getting back to school is critical to getting a good start in life.
I continue to serve as a member of the Education Select Committee in the House of Commons and in that role I will be working with my Committee colleagues to hold the Government to account and to ensure that education providers are supported as the lockdown is lifted. Locally, I have spoken with some of our headteachers and I know that they are keen to get children back into school as soon as possible.
Initially, the Government expects children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to school, in smaller class sizes. The ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer, if feasible. For older pupils, the Government hopes to get Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year some face-to-face contact with their teachers, to supplement their remote education. It is unlikely that other secondary pupils will return to school before the summer.
The risk to the elderly and vulnerable in care homes is apparent and I have accordingly been in contact with several care providers in our constituency. I continue to receive updates concerning PPE equipment locally and I will assist wherever I can if homes are unable to access the support they need. Over 7.8 million pieces of PPE have now been provided to over 26,000 care settings across the country and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Parliament to ensure that support is provided to councils and care providers.
I welcomed the £3.2 billion provided by the Government to local authorities to bolster their response to Covid-19. This funding will include support for care home providers to reduce the rate of transmission in and between care homes. The Government have also now published a new action plan for adult social care to minimise the spread of infection in care settings.
All social care staff and care home residents can now be tested regardless of whether they have symptoms, as eligibility has been expanded. Anyone who is due to be discharged from hospital into a residential care setting will also be tested for the virus.
To facilitate this, a new online portal for care homes to arrange coronavirus testing has been launched. The portal will allow care homes to arrange deliveries of coronavirus tests kits. I be contacting care homes to ensure this system is working for them and they are receiving the support they need.
Information on the support available covering employees has been published and widely circulated. You can access details regarding being ‘furloughed’ here.
If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.
Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit.
From 6 April the Government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for 1 year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.
If you have COVID-19 or are staying at home:
You are now able to claim Universal Credit, and if required can access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a job centre.
If you are self-employed, the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) supports self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19). This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80per cent of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. To check your eligibility and claim a grant through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme please check here.
You are able to claim Universal Credit, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria.
To support you with the economic impact of the outbreak, and allow you to follow government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.
You should check your eligibility for Universal Credit, which is available for people in and out of work. Support for rental costs will be paid through Universal Credit. From April, we are increasing Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.
I know that the longer the pandemic continues, the greater the pressure on businesses and workers across the country. As we move into the second phase of the Government’s response to coronavirus, ministers are focused not just on saving lives, but also saving livelihoods. They are continuing to take unprecedented actions to support businesses, jobs and our economy. Since last writing to you, new measures have been announced:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:
I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for four months, until the end of October. This mean that workers will, through the combined efforts of Government and employers, continue to receive the same level of support as they do now, at 80% of their salary, up to £2,500.
From August to October the scheme will continue, for all sectors and all regions of the UK, but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work. Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring back furloughed employees part time. The Government will ask employers to start sharing, with the Government, the costs of paying people’s salaries.
Bounce Back Loans:
The Government recently announced an additional discretionary fund aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. I understand that local authorities are being asked by the Government to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. I hope that this will assist businesses in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner who may have previously fallen outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. Further information can be found here.
Small Business Grant Scheme:
This is a hugely challenging time for businesses, especially for the smaller firms that are at the heart of our local community in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. I am therefore thrilled that 1,264 business properties in Hillingdon and 659 business properties in Harrow have already received grants as part of the Government’s Small Business Grants Scheme, which is helping to protect businesses and people’s livelihoods. I am very grateful to both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils who have been working flat out to ensure these vital funds get to hard-pressed business owners. I welcome the Government support at this time, and I will continue working with colleagues to ensure that support reaches those who need it wherever possible.
I published an article with further details on my website, which can be accessed here.
British Nationals Overseas and Airport Arrivals
I have been assisting a great many constituents who were either stranded overseas themselves or concerned for loved ones who were unable to return to the UK. I am grateful to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for assisting in the unprecedented repatriation of so many British Nationals.
The vast majority of affected residents from our constituency are now safe in their homes, but if you or a loved one require urgent consular assistance overseas, including repatriation, please email my office (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a matter of urgency and include the relevant British National’s name, contact details (email & mobile phone number), DOB, passport number if you have it, and the address where they are staying overseas.
The Government is introducing a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border. When the level of infection in the UK reduces further, the Government will require all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information, and, if they are not on a short list of exemptions, to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days upon arrival in the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government.
If you are able to support the Government with any of the following, please follow this link to register you company online and to help the national effort: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-from-business
- medical testing equipment
- medical equipment design
- protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
- hotel rooms
- transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
- manufacturing equipment
- warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
- expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
- social care or childcare
It remains as important as ever that we all continue to follow the Government’s guidance; to reduce the risk of flare-ups of the virus, whilst mitigating against the indirect harm caused - the side-effects. As medical and scientific advancements occur at record speed, we must also take steps to prevent long-term damage to people’s livelihoods, attainment, and mental health.
I will remain in close contact with local providers to ensure that wherever possible our constituency is prepared and protected. Please do not hesitate in contacting me if I can be of any assistance.
As I continue to participate in Parliament online, and in person again soon, I look forward to meeting with more local residents when our circumstances will allow.